Updated on February 2, 2016
What You Need to Know Before You Take Your Baby Swimming
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Swimming is a really popular activity to do with your baby, and I agree that it can be a lot of fun! That being said, getting your baby ready for the pool (and ready to go home from the pool) is something of an exercise in patience. Don’t be fooled, taking your baby swimming is a process. Gone are the days of arriving at the pool, leisurely getting ready to get in the pool, a quick shower, and then taking your time getting showered and dressed again once your swim is finished. No no. That’s just not what swimming is like with a baby. Lucky for you, the process of taking baby for a swim is something I have done more times than I can count, and I’ve learned a few things along the way! Allow me to share them with you so you can be prepared for the event that is baby’s first swim.
Let’s start with what you need to take baby in the pool. First, you need a swim diaper. Most pools (at least where I live) require that all children under 3 years of age wear a swim diaper AND a plastic pant. Two year old potty trained? He still needs a swim diaper and plastic pant. What’s the deal with swim diapers anyway? Well, a swim diaper is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to catch poop. Don’t try to “save time” by getting baby in their swim diaper and swim suit under their clothing at home, putting them in the car seat, and then driving to the pool. You will only arrive at the pool with a wet baby and wet car seat. Not fun. Not fun at all. A swim diaper does not absorb pee. It doesn’t absorb anything, and there’s a really good reason for that. If a swim diaper absorbed liquid, then the moment you carried your baby into the pool, the diaper would become saturated with pool water, and sag right off your baby’s bum. Whether you are using a disposable swim diaper or a reusable cloth swim diaper (the latter being my preference), neither one will absorb pee. So if you opt to take swimming lessons with your six month old baby, yes, all those babies in the class are peeing in the pool. Bumbini Cloth Diaper Company has a great selection of reusable cloth swim diapers, if you’re interested in going that route!
This brings us to the plastic pant. This has been a subject of
debate conversation in many Facebook groups I belong to as of late. If baby is in a reusable cloth swim diaper, do they still need to wear a plastic pant over it? The answer is yes. I know your cloth swim diaper might be the cutest darned diaper ever. I get it. I really do. However, you do not want to be the parent who didn’t put their baby in a plastic pant and ended up contaminating the whole pool with their child’s poop. Disposable or reusable swim diaper, just put the plastic pant on over it. Any pool that requires a plastic pant will sell them, and they usually cost less than $10 (and of course can be used over and over again). Do most swim instructors check the babies when they get in the pool? Probably not, though it has happened in at least one of my baby swim classes. Does that mean you can get away without using one? Probably. Should you skip it? No. A swim diaper is designed to prevent fecal matter from contaminating the pool water. Think of the plastic pant as your swim diaper’s insurance policy. It’s there to (hopefully) catch anything the swim diaper doesn’t. Depending on the type of pool you go to (my preferred local pool is a salt water pool), a fecal contamination may require that the pool be drained, sanitized, refilled, and here’s the worst part, REHEATED. Have you ever taken a baby into a heated pool that was just refilled? No? I have. It’s cold. It’s really cold. It’s the kind of cold where every baby in that class is bobbing around shivering, and half of them are screaming. Don’t be the parent that caused that. I’m not saying that the plastic pant is the be all and end all, and will absolutely hold in poop. If your baby has a poop leak and they were in a swim diaper AND a plastic pant, at least you can feel better about the situation by knowing you took all the right measures to prevent that from happening.
Now that we’ve covered the most important requirements for taking baby swimming, let’s get to the other stuff. And there’s quite a bit of stuff. To save time (and this one will save you time), you should wear your swim suit under your clothing on the way to the pool. This way you simply need to remove your clothing and you’re good to go. This brings me to a very important item you DO NOT want to forget to pack. Underwear. Bring a pair of underwear for yourself. Don’t forget it. If you’re breastfeeding and you’re a leaker, bring breast pads and wear some under your suit for the trip from your house to the pool. Don’t forget to take the breast pads out before your pre-swim shower. You’ll also want a towel (hooded or not, your call) for baby, and a towel for yourself. Don’t kid yourself. You won’t actually get to use that towel, but it will be where you put your soaking wet baby to get them dressed after their own towel is too wet to lay them on. If your baby is old enough to be standing in the shower before/after the swim, you may want to bring some sandals for him, and you definitely want flip flops or sandals for yourself. You can bring your own lock for the locker, or rent one from the pool. If you rent one from the pool, it will come with a key attached to the largest safety pin ever. Don’t bother trying to find a spot on your swim suit for the safety pin where your baby won’t grab at it. Instead, pin it to the towel that you’ll bring out to the pool deck. A swim suit for baby is another great item to pack with you. It is totally optional though, so if you have a swim diaper and the plastic pant, a swim suit is just icing on the cake. Don’t forget a hair brush and hair elastic for yourself too! You’ll need somewhere to put all the wet swim gear, and for that I recommend a reusable wet bag. The final must not forget item: a clean diaper for baby!
Now that I’ve covered the basics of what you need to swim, let me tell you what the entire process is like. You’re going to arrive 20 to 30 minutes before the class starts. Since you’re already wearing your swim suit, you’re going to start by getting yourself totally ready for the pool. What do you do with your baby while you’re doing that? Very good question. At the pool we go to, I can hang my baby up on the wall. Sort of. They have these handy seats that pull out from the wall where you can strap your baby in. These are amazing. Failing that, there may be a play pen in the change room for stowing babies while moms get dressed. You may want to bring baby’s infant bucket seat so you have somewhere to put baby, but keep in mind that these take up precious space in the change room, and your pool may or may not allow you to bring it out to the pool deck (mine does not). If none of those options are available, there’s the floor (now’s a good time to bring out that towel you brought for yourself).
Okay, so mom (or dad) is ready for the pool. Time to get baby ready. Be prepared to be in very close quarters with somewhere around 16 moms and 16 babies all vying for the 3, maybe 5, spots on the bench where you can put baby down to get them into their swim gear. If you aren’t lucky (or pushy) enough to get a spot on the bench, it’s back to the floor. Once you’re both ready for the pool, check the clock. If it isn’t less than 5 minutes before the class starts, you’re going to hang tight. Everyone (including babies) needs to shower before getting in the pool, and you don’t want to do that too early or your baby will be really cold. Ideally, you’ll shower with baby and walk out onto the pool deck just as the instructor is inviting the class into the pool. That’s what I call perfect timing.
Once the class is over, the real fun begins. It’s time to get yourselves showered again, and try to get a coveted spot on the bench. You’re going to get baby dried off and dressed first. If you have long hair, it’s a good idea to quickly squeeze out as much water as you can from your hair so it isn’t dripping all over your baby (this is pretty much the only time you get to use your towel). Once you’re not dripping water everywhere, dry off baby, attempt to remove the wet sticky swim suit, plastic pant, and swim diaper from baby. Dry them off again. Put on that nice fresh diaper, get them dressed, and (if you can) hang baby back up on the wall. Now you can use the last dry corner of your towel to dry yourself off and get dressed. Toss everything in the wet bag, and you’re done. Then pat yourself on the back because you just successfully took your baby swimming for the very first time. If you enrolled in a class, guess what? You get to this all over again next week!
Have you ever forgotten to bring something with you when you took your child swimming? How old was your baby the first time you took him or her swimming?